Save on Winter Energy Costs by Upgrading Your Attic’s Ventilation

It’s a frosty night and your furnace continues to turn on over and over again. You just know that something isn’t right and that you are losing heat somewhere in your house. Thousands of people in the Toronto area are experiencing the same problem but fortunately there is something that you can do about it.

Check Your Attic

We all pretty much know that hot air rises so it makes sense that a lot of your heat may be lost in the roof of your home. Checking the insulation in your attic and upgrading it if need be can lead to significant savings.

Insulation is the first line of defense when it comes to home energy. It’s a barrier that blocks the movement of heat so that the warm air that your furnace is pumping out stays inside the home for as long as possible. When you’re losing a lot of heat due to poor attic insulation, your furnace needs to compensate to keep the air warm within your home.

Upgrading the Insulation

The first thing you’ll need to do is to find out how much insulation is in your attic already and the quality of it. Many older homes were built with low efficiency insulation that has never been replaced. If you have a general contractor that you’ve been using for various projects in your home, it wouldn’t hurt to have him stop by to assess your insulation. In many cases, especially in older homes, you can experience significant savings in both the cold winter months and during the hot summers.

Types of Attic Insulation

There are two kinds of insulation that you can choose for your attic including batt and loose fill. If you’re on a budget, batt insulation is your best option since it can cover a lot more space. Loose fill insulation, on the other hand, is generally quicker and easier to add to an attic, which will reduce the time spent having workmen in your home.

About Attic Ventilation

Well you need to keep your attic insulated, it must also be properly ventilated. This can seem confusing at first glance since you’ll be allowing cold air into the attic with the venting while at the same time adding insulation to keep your house warm. There’s a delicate balance in play here though that must be kept in place in order to enjoy an energy efficient home.

The insulation blocks the flow of heat to the attic so that it can stay cold in the winter. The vents allow cold air to circulate in the attic, which helps restrict moisture build-up. With a cold attic, there will be less chance of an ice dam forming on your roof, which can cause a lot of damage to your roofing shingles.

Adding Insulation without Blocking Ventilation

Many well-meaning do-it-yourself homeowners make the mistake of blocking airflow with insulation. Soffit vents and rafter vents are there for a good reason and should never be covered with insulation. This defeats the purpose of keeping an even and steady airflow moving throughout the attic.

It’s always best to get a professional to install new insulation when needed so that the job is done right. The attic is the hat for your home and should be well-respected. When done properly, the addition of new attic insulation will keep your home toasty warm in the cold months, cool in the summer and will help prevent any damage from occurring to your roof.

How to Prevent Freezing Pipes in the Winter

If it’s ever happened to you before, you know just how much damage a bursting pipe can cause to your home. Water damage is one out of every homeowner’s worst nightmares and it can happen in the blink of an eye when a pipe freezes in the winter. The best way to avoid freezing pipes altogether is to take preventative measures when you can before the colder weather arrives.

freezepipe

When water expands it freezes and whether you have plastic or metal pipes, the water will expand and as a result it will put a lot of pressure on the pipes. Usually it is the pipes that are the most exposed to severe weather conditions that end up freezing. Some examples include supply lines to slimming pools, sprinkler water lines, hose bibs that are located outside and water supply lines in attics, crawl spaces, garages or even inside kitchen cabinets. These are the pipes that should be investigated first should freezing occur.

Preventative Measures

When it starts to get brutally cold outside, there are a few things that you can do to help keep your pipes from freezing.

  1. If you have any water lines inside your garage, make sure that the garage doors are always kept shut once you’ve removed your car from the garage or have parked it in there for the night.
  2. There is a lot of contradictory information regarding leaving your tap dripping when it’s cold outside. Some professionals will tell you that keeping a slow drip flowing from your taps during the extreme cold will help prevent your pipes from freezing. On the other hand, just as many professionals state the opposite. They claimed that this can lead to faster freeze-ups and that no faucets should ever be left dripping. For this reason, we highly recommend that you talk to your plumber before deciding to let your tap drip to prevent pipe freezing. It’s a controversial topic so talk to a trusted plumber before taking any action.
  3. Make sure that you have disconnected your garden hose for the season and have put it into storage. When a garden hose freezes you may not only lose your favourite hose due to expansion but may also damage your plumbing system.
  4. Insulate any pipes you have that lie in an unheated area of your home such as in the garage or in the attic. You can opt for special pipe insulation made of foam or use a heat tape that is designed to wrap around water pipes. The insulation you choose will depend on how exposed the pipes are to extremely cold conditions.
  5. If you’re going to be traveling this winter your thermostat should be set no lower than 13°C or 55°F. You can also shut off the main supply of water and then drain the plumbing system for added prevention.

If Your Pipes Have Frozen…

The main indicator of frozen pipes is the inability to turn on the water inside at the faucet. If you come home from work one day and water only drips out of your tap, you should be immediately look for a pipe that has frozen. You should also inspect your other taps to make sure that they are okay.

Look at the pipes that are most likely to freeze first as described above. Then, heat must be applied to the pipe safely to start the melting. Many homeowners use a hair dryer or a heating pad to warm up the pipes and these methods generally work well. Never use a device with an open flame such as a blowtorch or a propane heater since this can cause extensive damage.

While you are heating up the pipe, keep your faucet inside turned on. As the water starts to melt, the open faucet will help keep the flow of water running over the ice inside the pipe, which will help things melt faster.

If you can’t easily locate the problem area, it’s time to call in a licensed plumber. Getting your pipes unfrozen quickly is critical since time is ticking away and you will need to handle this situation fast before any pipes burst.

Less Common Tips to Help You Save Energy This Winter

Winter is fast approaching and most people have already turned on their furnaces as they prepare for the colder weather to arrive. This winter, reduce your heating and electrical bills by using these less common tips to help save on energy costs.

Invest in a Slow Cooker

One of the energy hogs in your home is your oven. Cooking  with a slow cooker will give you warm and nutritious meals to come back to after a hard day at work and it will use a lot less energy. As well, the steam provided by a slow cooker will add humidity, which is so desperately needed during the cold months when the heater is supplying so much dry air to your home.

Reverse Your Ceiling Fans

Many people only use ceiling fans during the summer but did you know that reversing them during the winter will help send down the heat that has risen to the ceiling? When you rotate your fan clockwise, the heat will be circulated back down so that it can’t be lost through the ceiling.

Curtains Aren’t Just for the Windows

While we all know that heavy window curtains provide an extra barrier from the cold, you can also hang curtains around a door that is seldom used but is letting in a draft. If you don’t have the funds to invest in a new door right now and can’t get the weather stripping to fit just right to stop the draft, try hanging a curtain in front of it. You’ll be amazed to see just how much heat remains in your house and how much cold air is literally stopped at your door.

Bubble Wrap for the Windows

Bubble wrap is a great insulator that you can use on any window in your home that is letting in the cold. Simply wet your window with water and then stick the bubble wrap to it. It will stay in place all winter and is a simple and cost-effective measure you can take to reduce your energy bills.

Hang Your Clothes to Dry over Heat Registers

Turn off your dryer for the winter and instead use the heat coming from your registers to dry your clothes. This is also an inexpensive way to add humidity to your home. A lot of your electrical costs are coming from your dryer if you’re using it regularly. Plus, you’ll be able to turn down the humidifier for even more cost savings.

There are a lot of things that you can do to reduce your energy bills this winter. These are just some of the lesser-known tricks of the trade that we thought you’d be interested in knowing about. If you are dedicated to lowering your costs this winter, even doing these little things can add up to huge savings.

Do It Yourself Tricks to Help Track down the Drafts in Your Home

While you may know that drafts  can significantly increase your energy bills in the winter, you may not know exactly how to track them down. If you don’t want to call in a professional, there are ways that you can find them yourself using simple tests with common household products. Finding drafts is critical when you want to reduce your heating costs during the long winter months.

Areas to Check

Here is a list of the areas that should be checked to find any gaps and cracks causing an air leak:

  • Switch plates
  • Around doors
  • Around windows
  • Electrical outlets
  • Attic hatches
  • Fans and vents
  • Fireplace dampers
  • Baseboards
  • Around wires and pipes
  • Around mail slots
  • Foundation seals

Getting Started

You’ll need to take some of the pressure out of the home before starting the tests. Close all the doors and windows in your home and turn on any bathroom or kitchen exhaust vents to create a negative pressure. It’s also a good idea to turn off your water heater and furnace if possible and any other combustible appliances. If you don’t know how to turn them off, turning off the vents may depressurize the house enough to use the smoke test.

How to Check for Drafts

It’s best to wait for a cold, windy day to do a thorough inspection for any air leaks. You can use a tea light, a candle or an incense stick to do a smoke test. Hold the source of smoke close to the area that you are investigating and look for any flickers in the smoke. If there is a serious draft, the smoke will automatically be blown away.

Another way to do a quick check of your doors and windows is to hold a piece of hair and see if it moves when you’re near a potential draft. This is especially useful if you don’t want to use a smoke test in certain areas for safety reasons.

If you’re checking your door, an easy way to spot a gap is to shut the door on a money bill. Then, try to pull it out. If you have to drag it out, you’re fine. If you can pull it out easily, it’s time to put on more weather stripping for added protection.

Putting up the Barriers

Once you’ve found the drafts in your home it’s time to cover them up. Foam sealant or silicone caulking can be used to handle drafts appearing in window frames or in other areas that don’t move. Draft stoppers and weather stripping can be used on movable objects such as doors and windows. You can also purchase decorative draft stoppers for windows that you can put at the bottom of the window frame to help stop the cold air from entering your home.

Getting rid of your gaps and cracks can help reduce your energy costs greatly during the winter and during the summer. The energy that you put in now to help stop the flow of cold air from invading your home will also stop the flow of heat from entering your home in the summer. You can call in professionals to help you find these cracks or you can perform it as a do-it-yourself project on a weekend. Either way, it’s important to track down all the drafts in your home and then seal them with the proper materials. It’s a low-cost way to make your home more energy efficient and if you have kids they’ll absolutely love helping you with this project.